Thursday, 21 October 2010


"Euro MPs back 20-week maternity leave on full pay," read the headlines, accurately reflecting the result of a first reading vote in the European Parliament.

Well this Euro-MP didn't back it, and nor did my British Liberal Democrat colleagues.

But the heated debates we have had about the issue in our European Lib Dem Group (ALDE) reflect different national perceptions and a different view of what the EU should be doing.

Some of my colleagues believe strongly that Europe should be laying down minimum social standards. They question how there can be a proper sense of European citizenship, and fair competition between Member States, if the rules are different?

But although the treaties extend EU competence into this area, I want the European requirements to be minimal. The customs and economies of each country are different. Statutory maternity leave and pay are matters that should be determined by national parliaments, taking into account what can be afforded. When it comes to social policy, my vote is for subsidiarity.

Incidentally, a side debate pitted those who believe that "we need more babies in Europe" against myself; "world population has trebled in my lifetime, so no we don't!"

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